Research on what motivates the unemployed to intensify their job search…  preliminary findings by Elon University researchers are discussed in this article from The Triad Business Journal.

I’m particularly intrigued by the finding that married men spend about 40% less time job searching than do single men or women.

Discouraging news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.  Employers are not adding jobs, and the unemployment rate remains stagnant WITHOUT COUNTING the people who’ve retired early, gone back to school, or given up (story here explaining the “Devil in the Details“).

“Job Creation” is the buzz I’m hearing all around.  Since consumer spending accounts for 70% of the economy, the only way to dig out of the recession (as I understand it) is to get more money – somehow – into consumers’ hands.  With employers too nervous to hire, the government unable to provide “welfare”, it seems we’re just STUCK.  What can be done? 

The economy needs to add roughly 250,000 jobs a month to rapidly bring down the unemployment rate, which has been above 9 percent in all but two months since May 2009.  (quote from the AP story linked above)

A quarter of a million NEW jobs per MONTH?  Too overwhelming.  Impossible.  Can’t do anything about that, right?

Well, Greensboro (my city) has decided to start where we are right here and rally our 16,000 local businesses to just add one new job each between now and end of 2012.  The initiative “One Job Greensboro” was announced this week at the Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Community luncheon.  We’re challenging all local employers to add just one job, but the minimum goal is 1,000 new jobs. 

What a tiny drop in the bucket!  I know – at the national level.  But when the economy is so uncertain, I think it’s better to start small and sensibly, and focus our attention on the local impact.  If 1,000 of the almost 40,000 unemployed people in the Greensboro area get jobs with enough salary to cover their bills and buy groceries, that will take them off the human services waiting lists and put them back on the road to consumer confidence and consumer spending.  Whoever’s been supporting each of those job-seekers for so long (parents, spouses, agencies…) will find more money in their own pockets/coffers as well.

Companies signing the pledge to create one new job will get a lot of positive attention in Greensboro.  Consumers like me want to invest in organizations who are trying to help in practical, meaningful ways.  Let’s do this!

I don’t have time right now to pontificate on this article I just found, from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, but if you work in the nonprofit world please read it.  In a nutshell it says that donors don’t do enough research on nonprofit organizations’ performance before they donate to them.  Donors tend to focus too hard on financial details like overhead percentage, when results is what really separates the wheat from the chaff.  This is what my United Way is all about and where we’re trying to go.  Here’s an excerpt:

In an ideal world, said Mr. Harold, each nonprofit would spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to gather data that would show over the long haul whether their work matters. That would be the “gold standard,” he said.

Because of cost, however, such a move is unrealistic for most organizations.

Instead, he said, he would settle for a “silver standard,” in which nonprofits attempt to articulate reasonable goals, adopt sound strategies for achieving them, and set up reasonable ways to measure whether they are achieving those goals, such as conducting evaluations among a nonprofit’s clients.

But many donors are themselves falling short—settling for what Mr. Harold says is a “bronze standard” of measurement.

Can you imagine being in this young mother’s shoes?

“My life revolves around my two beautiful children. They see me as ‘Mummy’, not a person in a wheelchair and do not judge me or our life. This is now changing as my efforts to be part of their life is limited by the physical access of schools, parks and shops; the attitudes of other parents; and the reality of needing 8 hours support a day with my personal care… I cannot get into the houses of my children’s friends and must wait outside for them to finish playing. I cannot get to all the classrooms at school so I have not met many other parents. I can’t get close to the playground in the middle of the park or help out at the sporting events my children want to be part of. Other parents see me as different, and I have had one parent not want my son to play with her son because I could not help with supervision in her inaccessible house.”

Samantha

From the Real Economic Impact blog I found a link to the new report out from World Health Organization and World Bank, providing the first global numbers on disability in 40 years.  (The above quote is an excerpt, not sure which country it’s from – I like to think all US schools, at least, are wheelchair-accessible.)  They estimate that 15% of the world population has one or more disabilities — which I understand includes physical and developmental disabilities as well as mental illness and certain chronic health issues (e.g. heart disease).  15% of the world population = over 1 billion people.  Almost 20% of those (about 190 million people) are having really significant difficulty functioning.  

I realize that many people I know are facing barriers that I don’t have to think about – and quite likely without my knowledge.  But disability is on the rise, and most of us will have one if we live long enough. 

There’s a thoughtful foreword to the 349-page report by Stephen Hawking – see p. ix.

Article – Measurement as Learning – Managing Performance.

Recommended.

The “What the Hell” effect, described here in PsyBlog.  Read it, you’ll likely recognize it!  Imagine you’ve been dieting, doing well with a daily calorie limit.  Then you go out with co-workers for a special occasion.

At a bar beforehand you were hungry and ordered a few snacks to share. These, combined with the drinks, have already put you near your daily calorie intake limit.Then in the restaurant you eat some bread and have a drink while everyone chooses from the menu. You know what you should choose—a salad—but something is edging you towards the steak. You reason that seeing as you’re already over the limit it doesn’t matter now. What the hell, let’s have the steak.

Sound familiar?  Researchers suggest that…

… the what-the-hell effect can be avoided by having longer-term goals and transforming inhibitional goals into acquisitional goals.

In other words, focus on acquiring something, adding something, counting something that adds up.  Inhibiting, or stopping yourself from doing something, is harder.  So for me it makes sense why I had better luck focusing on adding exercise and movement to my day than I did when limiting my food intake.  The writer also explains the value of AA members adding up and celebrating their number of days sober as the focus.

Eleven things I want to see more of in 2011:

  1. Donations to charity on the part of everyone who can — it’s really dire out here in the world of nonprofits.
  2. People saving for emergencies
  3. Fact-checking of what public figures say
  4. High-quality sleep for everyone who drives, does surgery, or makes policy decisions
  5. Vegetables eaten by children (the next generation will need to be a LOT healthier than we are, to handle the world that we’re leaving them!)
  6. Home-grown produce (feel free to share with me…)
  7. Moments spent in the “flow” – so relaxing!!
  8. Plastic water bottles in the recycle bin instead of the trash can
  9. Clear priorities – one silver lining of hard times
  10. Bartering
  11. Varieties of decaffeinated hot beverages (my craving when bored or stressed)

On that principle, “you get/are what you measure,” here is a list of metrics I’ve brainstormed for 2011, for me and my life/family/job.  A “dashboard” containing all these measures would pretty well depict my quality of life, I think.  I’ll probably need to pare this list down to make it manageable.

  • number of times I find myself thinking, “this is really fun!”
  • number of times my family sits down to a meal together
  • number of times I attend Meeting for Worship
  • number of weeks without using my credit card
  • number of days I get some exercise
  • percentage of work days that I feel productive or useful
  • number of coffee dates or lunches with friends
  • number of good books read
  • number of nights I get enough sleep
  • number of days I eat 5 servings of fruits & veg
  • amount of extra income I earn
  • dollars saved when I do something myself, like wash the car
  • number of stories, story ideas/scenes, or memories written down
  • number of letters and  cards sent to friends & family
  • number of “catching up” phone calls made and received
  • % of weekend time spent playing with my daughter
  • number of substantive conversations held with my husband
  • number of new home upkeep habits created and % sustained for longer than 1 month

This year I’m going to take a few of my usual goals OFF my plate:  volunteering and donating money to charity among them.  I’ve got to focus on personal finances, family, and my own well-being.  I’ve done enough volunteering and donating in the past to buy myself a year off!  Also, I’m not even going to consider taking classes or courses for self-improvement or whatever.  No more guilt or pressure, none of that thinking “I can fit it all in *this time*”. 

I wrote on this topic before, pertaining to nonprofit organizations, and it’s been interesting skimming this paper again and applying metrics to my personal life.  This is the first time I’m going to actually try to measure what’s important to me, rather than setting goals.  I think measuring will make me do more of all these things, or if not, at least aware of what I’m currently able to do – get a baseline.

As I consider whether to make any “New Year’s Resolutions” for 2011, I really liked this blog post from Get Rich Slowly.  I was particularly drawn to the part about the coaching tip:  “one fault, one solution” – that is, focus on the most important single problem, exclusively, and once that’s corrected move on to the next biggest problem.  Sounds like a good strategy.  Now, what’s my biggest problem?  I’m spoilt for choice!

Here’s a link to an Interesting article about “information overload” and its evil twin, “organization underload” (which, I gather, is about not being organized enough to manage all the information – a key line in my litany of self-criticism over the years). 

Information overload has always been a pet concern of mine.  My outrage at the injustice of being expected to cope with a ridiculous load of email and other information burdens has always battled with my secret fear that I’m just less sharp, less disciplined, less organized than others who cope with it sans complaint.  Given that another soapbox of mine is the cultural crisis of sleep deprivation, I worry sometimes that I just come off sounding “old”.

Am I just a middle-aged woman who needs more time to process than others and lots of naps?  On better days I tell myself I’m a prophet warning the Western world of looming danger from our distracted, exhausted ways.  Allow me to ramble a little bit more in an unfocused, distracted way….

I looked up the research that first author mentions, comparing “infomania”‘s impact on IQ with marijuana smoking, and found that the “infomania” researcher, Dr. Glenn Wilson, had to post a disclaimer on his website because the media misrepresented his study.  His findings were never actually published and were the result of an experiment conducted with just 8 people.

Here’s a paper on multi-tasking, which makes my case for me.  By the way, it references the marijuana comparison as cited by the BBC – which is part of the media misrepresentation problem mentioned above.  So, take that part with a grain of salt, but consider the other points made, including: 

“multitasking (is described as) a ‘mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.'”
 
“research has also found that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory”

“One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.”

I’m glad I finally gave myself permission not to multi-task.  Sometimes I need to temporarily, but I can always do better if I focus.  When my 4 year old daughter recently told me that she wanted to read a book while watching a video, I said “no” more emphatically than she expected me to.

I wonder what lessons of hindsight we’ll be hearing from people who have grown up multi-tasking and weathering information overload as a way of life.  Will they laugh at us old fogies who thought it was so bad, or will they have suffered such negative effects of it that they forbid their own children to walk and chew gum at the same time? 
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